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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

ARREST AND TRIAL                           175

Some of the accusations were far-fetched. One of the most interesting
cases was a poem about two old cypress trees. It said that the winding
pbots of these trees reached the underground springs where only the
 "hidden dragon" would know what they; were like. This was considered
an insult to the Emperor because the dragon was the symbol of the ruler
who was presently reigning over the empire, and therefore one should
only refer to a "dragon in the skies", and not a dragon hidden in the
underground springs. There was also a poem about peonies in which
the poet admired the incredible ingenuity of nature in creating such a
great variety of the same species. This was taken by the judges to be
intended as a sly reference to the ingenuity of those in power in devising
new forms of taxation. The preface to the descriptive poem "The
Medlar and the Chrysanthemum", where he spoke of eating these
fitter seeds, was considered a direct satire on the poverty of the district
-in general and on the poor pay of the government officials in particular.
The parable of the blind man's idea of the sun was considered a refer-
ence to the ignorance of the scholar candidates, who knew nothing
about Confucian philosophy except what was in Wang Anshih's
commentaries.

However, in most of the cases the defendant frankly admitted
criticism of the various new government measures in his poems, and
certainly there was enough feeling of anger and disappointment in
jke tone of his poems to justify the verdict that he was voicing a sharp
criticism of the regime.

Among the different poems that he had sent to his friend Prince
Wang Shien, there was a line where he said that he had to sit and
"listen to the screams of the prisoners being flogged". He did say that
"in a famine year there was no way of sending the fugitives home",
fugitives compelled to flee their villages because of debt. He did refer to
the "difficulty of painting a tiger", which was a symbol of the rapacious
government. In his poem to his friend Li Chang, he did say that he
"had gone along the city wall" of Michow and "buried the exposed
corpses with tears in my eyes", corpses of men, women, and children
who had died of starvation and fallen on the wayside, and that "there
was no joy in being a magistrate" at that time. Concerning his poem to
^is friend Sun Chueh, containing a line saying that they would not talk
politics, he confessed that at a dinner together they had agreed that who-
ever mentioned politics was to be penalised with a cup of wine. In a
poem to Tseng Kung, an obscure official but a major prose writer, he
mentioned that he was annoyed by all the hubbub of the politicians
who "sounded to him like the ever-crying cicadas". In his poem to
Chang Fangping he had compared the court to "a deserted forest where
cicadas are dinning the air", and "an abandoned pond where croaking
frogs are making so much noise" that he wanted "to close both my ears